Mumbai-based Mehdi Group, its directors and officials, its ten subsidiaries, and shell companies have been sanctioned by the US on Wednesday as part of a vast “oil-for-terror” network of firms, ships and individuals allegedly directed by and financially supporting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that supplied Syria with oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars in breach of US sanctions.

Mehdi Group and its directors/officials, Ali Ghadeer Mehdi, Ali Zaheer Mohammad Mehdi, Anuj Bhardwaj have managed vessels and found additional ones to move Iranian oil, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) wrote in a September 4 advisory to the maritime community, warning them of the risks involved with participating in “illicit schemes such as the IRGC’s oil-for-terror shipping network”.

The Mehdi Group subsidiaries and shell companies that have been sanctioned for their links to the transportation and sale of Iranian oil includes Bushra Ship Management Pvt Ltd, Khadija Ship Management Pt Ltd, Mehdi Offshore and Ship Management Pte Ltd, Penta Ocean Ship Management & Operation LLC, Fourteen Star Shipping Management, Five Energy Oil Trading, Vaniya Ship Management Pvt Ltd, Mehdi Bros Ship Services Pvt Ltd and Africo 1 Off-Shore SAL.

Senior IRGC official and former Iranian Minister of Petroleum Rostam Qasemi oversees this sprawling network, which features dozens of ship managers, vessels, and facilitators. This complex network of intermediaries enables the IRGC to obfuscate its involvement in selling Iranian oil, the Treasury Department wrote in the advisory.

“Treasury’s action against this sprawling petroleum network makes it explicitly clear that those purchasing Iranian oil are directly supporting Iran’s militant and terrorist arm, the IRGC”, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “Our actions over the last two weeks should serve as a strong warning to anyone considering facilitating the IRGC’s oil sales that there will be swift consequences.”

In spring 2019 alone, the IRGC-led network employed more than a dozen vessels to transport nearly 10 million barrels of crude oil that were predominantly sold to the Syrian regime for more than half a billion dollars. The same network also sold nearly 4 million barrels of condensate and hundreds of thousands of barrels in gas oil, bringing in another quarter billion dollars, the Treasury Department said.

The Mehdi Group and its officials including Ali Zaheer Mehdi bears responsibility for crewing and managing at least seven of the vessels used by the network and also for managing vessels across at least ten subsidiaries and shell companies.

Mehdi Group subsidiaries Bushra Ship Management and Khadija Ship Management under director Ali Ghadeer Mehdi, handle the day-to-day operations of the network’s vessels including the BONITA QUEEN, the DEVREZ, and the TOUR 2 in which Khadija has an interest.

Other Mehdi Group officials work to ensure the vessels remain available for the network’s use. Anuj Bhardwaj arranges vessel inspections and registrations. Zafar Anis Ishteyaq Hussain tracks and processes millions of dollars in expenses incurred by the vessels.

A third Mehdi Group subsidiary, Vaniya Ship Management Pvt Ltd, helped the Group set up three shell companies in the Marshall Islands. Under Ali Ghadeer Mehdi’s management, the shell companies purchased three crude oil tankers: the SARAK, the SOBAR, and the SOLAN.

“Notably, the SARAK falsified the Iranian origin of its cargo to port authorities,” the Treasury Department said.

Singapore-based Mehdi Offshore and Ship Management Pte Ltd ostensibly provides various support services, while UAE-based Penta Ocean Ship Management & Operation LLC and Fourteen Star Shipping Management manages billing and payments. Mehdi Group also is able to draw on expertise in oil-related logistics, including refining and storage, through its UAE-based subsidiary Five Energy Oil Trading, it said.

Lebanon-based Africo 1 Off-Shore SAL provides financial, material or technological support to Vaniya Ship Management by operating the tanker JASMINE for the network, the Treasury Department said.